A Free press in a free land
Washinton Post Columnist Margaret Sullivan’s piece, on the imminent departure of White House press rep. Sarah Sanders, caused me to remember many instances of dealing with representatives of the esteemed Fourth Estate. Most of these hard-working journalists were an absolute pleasure to deal with. Others? Well, let’s say that all professions have a few knuckleheads who don’t know, and never learn, how the game is played.
“Uno mano lava l’altra” is a wonderful expression in Italian.” It means “one hand washes the other.” It defines a relationship like that of the Fourth Estate and those laboring in the vineyards of the vote. (Public Service)
On many occasions over the years, I had the interesting experience of dealing with representatives of both print and electronic media, while serving in various public service jobs. Sometimes, the exchange was adversarial. Most times, it was workaday and benign. In most instances, there was a mutual respect employed. Both parties realized that the “other guy or gal” was just doing their job. Sometimes, during a heated situation, it did indeed feel like the aura of a castle besieged, fending off attacking marauders storming the walls. But in those situations, it usually involved dealing with some character who had a personal agenda or was trying to make a name for his/her self. Then, their call slips dropped to the bottom of the pile, for the other part of the above quotation is “E entrambe le mani lavano il viso.”(both hands wash the face.) Most of us realized that the relationship was essentially symbiotic in nature. And sometimes, a favor incurred could become an opportunity for either party on a later occasion. That is not to say an enterprising reporter would ever bury a story, just report it in an even-handed, factual manner, wherein the alleged miscreant was not an axe-murdering plunderer, but merely some hapless official who had dropped the ball or screwed up, like most humans do on occasion.
From John Peter Zenger onward, the notion of a free and independent press, who not only has a right to publish what they think necessary but a duty to do so as well, is required as the dues for living in a free society. And on a more basic level of exchange, common courtesy and civility of manner are the normal parameters of a good working relationship.
Like most things in life, honey gets you a lot more in an exchange than vinegar. Some hapless individuals never seem to learn this simple formula for working with others. And it is they who ride the bumpy highway of life, when the smooth pavement of civility is available to them. The more successful and time-wearied veterans, of all fields, learn these valuable lessons early. Those who don’t, do something else.
Joseph Xavier Martin